Culture/People: Northern Athabascan
Place: Athabaska, United States
Media: Quill, beads, velvet, and cotton string
Dims: 30.25 x 1.75 in. (76.8 x 4.4 cm)
Date: c. 1870
Description: This belt/sash is constructed of tightly woven porcupine quills with colorful rows of yellow, green, purple, orange, red, and light blue. The border is beaded with silver or clear transparent glass beads, and both ends are finished with maroon velvet material, while the reverse has a cotton canvas backing. Zig-zags, diamonds, and stacked steps make up the designs on this belt, creating a vibration that tends to play with your eyes, just like that of a Navajo Eye-Dazzler weaving. With very little to no information on this belt within the Coe’s database, it is unclear how this belt/sash is worn, but one would speculate that it could be used in a variety of ways. There are no holes, loops, or ties on either end that would connect this belt; maybe this belt’s intention is to be used as a strap for a bag
The weaving technique for this belt/sash requires a narrow vertical loom; it is 28 inches long and made up of 29 warp strings, which make it 1.75 inches wide. The quills are flattened and partially bent and folded over the weft strings that go over and under the warp strings. It seems that the length of one quill if it’s one solid color, is woven for about six to seven rows, so incorporating six colors to create these designs makes this belt that much more complex and impressive. This video recorded by the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center Alaska for the Dene Quill Art Project gives a great demonstration of how this weaving technique is achieved.
-See artist Melissa Shaginoff speak about this piece on Collections Spotlight September 2020.
-See artist Elizabeth James Perry speak about this piece also on Collections Spotlight June 2020.
RTC No: NA0935
Gift of Ralph T. Coe, 2011
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